I overheard some people discussing the late president and a couple were saying “Oh no Reagan was a LOT bigger star than most people realize.” Of course that was countered by “he was only a b-star bit player,” One said “Sure the guy who made all those ‘Blondie’ movies was in a lot of films, but that didn’t make him a big star. He just made a bunch of films.”
This got me to thinking a person can be in a lot of TV series or movies and never be a star.
So the question I propose is, WHO in the movies today would have the same level of stardom as Ronald Reagan had back in his peak movie years?
A “b-list” actor is by definition not a bit player.
Reagan was a movie star of some note. He was not A-list. He was the star of at least half a dozen Hollywood productions and a significant supporting actor in dozens of others. His movie career lasted, productively, about eighteen years, and he transitioned into some good TV work for a few years before going into politics. He was not especially critically acclaimed as an actor; he was never nominated for an Academy Award, and he wasn’t in a lot of really great films.
There’s no objective way to measure an actor’s stardom but Reagan was clearly a workmanlike actor with some star power but not a real A-lister, and most of the films he was in weren’t very good. He wasn’t Cary Grant, but he certainly wasn’t Clint Howard.
Among modern actors I would compare him to, say, Bill Paxton.
I have to disagree. Paxton, Daniels, and Pullman all have some reputation as skilled actors; Reagan, as far as I know, never did. He was strictly a contract player who never really raised himself above the horizon, critically. I’d compare him to, oh say Pierce Brosnan? Tom Selleck? Someone who was usually cast when they need a blandly handsome, unchallenging presence; he was pretty generic.
Selleck is a good comparison. Reagan got good reviews for King’s Row, but that was the only time anyone mistook him for a talented actor. He was well liked enough among actors to be voted President of the Screen Actors Guild, and that was probably helped along by the FBI who trusted him to help them catch commies.
Yeah, I thought of* King’s Row*. I tend to think he benefited from, uh, the soft racism of lowered expectations. It wasn’t a great performance, taken on its own, but it was better than he tended to deliver. Mostly due to the writing and directing, IMO.
In addition to which, *Casablanca *has only become a classic after the fact; it was just another routine piece of studio product in the day. So there was no special cachet to being considered for it as compared to any other movie.
And if Reagan had managed to plunk himself into what was otherwise a masterpiece, it would be outrageously funny. “I don’t stick my neck out for nobody.” Just imagine the Gaffer trying to say Rick’s lines and make them cool. 90 minutes of fun.
Brosnan’s a hard match because he got to play James Bond for awhile, an iconic role that raises an actor’s profile in a way that doesn’t reflect his acting ability at all. Reagan had no such roles.
Selleck is a good one, although the path of his career doesn’t really match.
I picked Paxton because the shape of his career has followed a similar path; he’s been a second tier movie star for about the same amount of time and now has transitioned into being a respectably good TV presence. Was he ever really noted as a better-than-good actor? Daniels certainly has been.